S. Lucies Day

In honour of the winter solstice, and the ancient feast of St Lucy (Dec 13th), which before the reform of the Gregorian calendar fell on midwinter, this snippet comes from John Donne (1572-1631).

A Nocturnall upon S.Lucies day, being the shortest day

Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the dayes,
Lucies, who scarce seven hours herself unmaskes;
The sunne is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rayes;
The world’s whole sap is sunke;
The generall balme th’ hydroptique earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the beds-feet, life is shrunke,
Dead and enterr’d; yet all these seeme to laugh,
Compar’d with mee, who am their Epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers bee
At the next world, that is, at the next Spring;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new Alchimie.
For his art did expresse
A quintessence even from nothingnesse,
From dull privations, and leane emptinesse:
He ruin’d me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that’s good,
Life, soule, forme, spirit, whence they beeing have;
I, by Love’s limbecke, am the grave
Of all that’s nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown’d the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two Chaosses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our soules, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing the Elixir grown;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; Yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; All, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light and body must be here.

But I am None; nor will my Sunne renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser Sunne
At this time to the Goat is runne
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all;
Since she enjoys her long night’s festivall,
Let me prepare towards her, and let mee call
This houre her Vigil, and her Eve, since this
Both the yeares, and the day’s deep midnight is.

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